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Can You Ride a Cow? How, Why, When & Which Type of Cow Explained

An orange cow with a white face.

Cows are typically kept either to collect milk, for meat, or as work animals. There are many different breeds of cows that look very different. Today, I will explain if it’s possible to ride a cow.

As a general rule, it’s possible to ride a cow. However, a cow needs to be trained so that they are comfortable. Cows can be taught to take commands like a horse, such as walking backward, changing directions, and going where you want them to go.

Below, I’ll explain how to go about riding a cow, what types of cows can be ridden, and if it’s a good idea to ride a cow or not.

How a Cow Can Be Trained So You Can Ride It

There are a few ways to train a cow so that you can ride it. But, it’s also possible to jump on the back of a cow, as many people do with other smaller animals. However, it’s a bit dangerous because you can fall off or it can anger the cow

Cows that you have a good relationship with, and have a calm temperament can be ridden, and they can quite enjoy it!

Here’s a video, of a person riding a dairy cow with no saddle:

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Even domesticated cows are wild animals at the end of the day. An angry cow can try to ram you, kick you, or trample you. All of which is incredibly dangerous.

NOTE: When training a cow for riding, it’s best to take it slow and get a cow accustomed and comfortable to being ridden. It’s also a good idea to start this process with a cow at a young age.

Before getting into step-by-step instructions for how to train a cow to let you ride it, I’ll first cover the breeds and general overview of various important information that you should know before trying to ride a cow

Cow/Cattle Breeds That Will Allow You To Ride Them

Certain breeds of cows are more aggressive and it’s virtually impossible to ride them. With that said, not only is it difficult to ride them but it’s difficult to get them to do anything because of their temperament. 

Related: Check out my article “20 Different Types of Types of Cows form Around the World

For example, some cows won’t allow you to touch them. In general, any of the dairy cow breeds are more docile.

Cows raised for meat are more aggressive. For example, the common meat cow breed Angus is known to be very aggressive. They will jump fences, and farmers’ wisdom is that you should never turn your back on an Angus cow or bull. 

It’s best to only try to ride cows that are dairy breeds. The most common dairy breeds of cows are:

  • Ayrshire
  • Brown Swiss
  • Guernsey
  • Holstein
  • Jersey
  • Milking Shorthorn
  • Red & White

This applies to cows. But, bulls are a bit of a different story. Interestingly, many people are of the opinion that dairy bulls are the most aggressive. And many report Jersey bulls are the most aggressive.

It also depends on each specific cow. Much like humans, they also have different personalities. Some are more shy and reserved, whereas, others are more confident.

TIP: In a herd of cows, there is also one cow that is the boss or queen of the herd. In general, if the Queen cow is OK with what you’re doing you will have a much easier time getting one of the other cows to allow you to ride it.

Steps To Train a Cow So It Will Allow You To Ride It

Anne Wilfafsky is very experienced in training cows so that they will allow you to ride them. She offers a bunch of tips to make it easy to train a cow to be ridden. 

It’s important when teaching a cow to be ridden to take it slow and get them accustomed to it gradually. Otherwise, they will not accept being ridden and will buck, and try to throw you off. You will also need one other person that the cow is comfortable with. 

NOTE: You need to get them the cow used to another person slowly over a few days. But, you will need another person to lead them around while you’re mounted on them.

Here’s a list of each of the steps followed by in-depth step-by-step instructions:

1. Ideally only try to ride cows that have been hand raised and are comfortable being touched.

2. Guidelines for choosing the right harness.

3. Get the cow used to wearing the harness.

4. Get the cow used to having you on top of them.

5. Train them on how to take directions.

#1: Ideally Only Try To Ride Cows That Have Been Hand Raised

Certain cows are more agreeable and easier to learn to ride than others. Typically, if a cow has been hand raised it’s much more comfortable having you around, being touched, and learning a new skill from you such as riding.

A brown baby cow standing in a meadow.
Hand-raising a cow is the best way to get it used to human interaction

NOTE: A cow should be 3 years or older if you are going to ride it. The weight of a human is reasonably heavy for a cow, and they will need to exert energy to keep you on their back. When a cow is younger than 3 years old its bone structure is not fully developed, and riding it can cause bone or joint issues for the cow.

#2: Guidelines for Choosing the Right Harness

Using a harness is highly recommended by expert cow-riding trainers. The main reasons are:

  • It gives you something to hold on to which is safer.
  • It keeps you more balanced which keeps you and the cow calmer.

As you may know, animals can sense your energy and emotions. If you’re a bit nervous because it’s difficult to hold on and keep your balance a cow can sense it. Therefore, using a harness will keep you and the cow calmer, which will make it easier to train them to be ridden.

The harness will go around the base of a tail. The base of the tail of a cow is a different shape from that of a horse. So, if you use a regular rounded strap around the base of a cow’s tail it’s not as comfortable.

NOTE: The strap on the back of the harness that goes around a cow’s tail should be flat, rather than rounded.

Also, before putting on a harness a cow should be comfortable wearing a harness on its head and being led around with gentle tugging commands similar to a dog leash. If this has not been done, this will take a bit of extra time to train them.

Here’s a video that shows how to do it:

#3: Getting Them Used to Your Touch and Putting the Harness On

The harness touches a cow in areas that they aren’t typically comfortable with such as under the belly, and on the top of their back. So before putting on the blanket and the harness on top you need to gradually get them used to being touched in these areas.

If you attempt to put the blanket and the harness on right away it will scare them, and they will move away. Cows are most comfortable with being touched on their shoulders. When cows touch each other, one cow will lower its head, which is an invitation to another cow to lick its shoulder. 

So, when getting a cow used to a harness you should start by rubbing its shoulder area, and gradually move to other areas, monitoring how they are responding. As they get used to the top of their back, and underneath their belly, it’s easier to lightly place a harness on them

NOTE: Cows like the way it feels to be scratched and petted for the most part. You should move very slowly when you’re walking around the cow to not spook them or make them nervous.

#4: Get Them Used to One New Thing at a Time

The easiest method to get a cow used to wearing a harness and being ridden is to only introduce one new thing at a time. They will typically get scared of new things they are not familiar with. 

For example, once they’re comfortable with your touch you can go and get the blanket for the harness and hold it while you pet and scratch them. This will calm them down when the blanket is close to them and shows them that it’s not a big deal.

Then place the blanket against their body lightly and continue to scratch them. After a minute or so of this, you can lightly place the blanket on their back. Doing so will maximize the chance that they will accept the blanket without freaking out and moving away.

You can then repeat this similar procedure with the harness and straps. The overall idea is to use scratching as a distraction and make them associate the positive feelings of being scratched and rubbed with you and the harness.

#5: Have Them Walk With the Harness On To Get Them Used to It

Once the harness is on them you should get them used to it by taking them for a walk. The general rule with cows is that once they’ve walked 100 to 200 meters with something they will be used to it, and the chances that they get nervous or freak out from the harness are much lower.

#6: Mounting on Them and Beginning To Ride

Now that the cow is comfortable wearing the harness you can begin the process of mounting them. The key thing again with this step and any of the steps is to be calm, and relaxed, and make them feel good by rubbing them.

To mount them you should get a step stool or upside-down bucket and stand next to them while rubbing and scratching them. Then you can gradually lean your body against them as you do so. This will get them accustomed to the feeling of your body on theirs. As you do so continue rubbing them.

Then climb on top of them so that your torso is on top of their back and your legs are in the air and continue rubbing and scratching them. Once it’s comfortable with your body weight you can slowly transition to climbing up and mounting them.

Cows standing in a meadow in the sun.
Pet the cow to make it as comfortable with you as possible

Keep calm and confident, and continue rubbing them. Have the other person that the cow is familiar with lead the cow to begin walking. Walk with them for 100 to 200 meters to get them used to you riding them. Then you can slowly and gradually dismount.

#7: Get Them Used to Taking Directions While You’re Riding Them

Some cows will have already been trained to take directions. For example, if they are trained to tow farm equipment such as a plow. But, if not you will need to train them how to take directions first. This is best done while you are not riding them.

It’s common for cows to be led around with a harness around their head, or a light whip that is touched on the sides of their head to tell them which direction they should go.

NOTE: If a cow has not been trained to take directions, use the same techniques when you are riding them, to give them directions.

You will also need to teach them new instructions. For example, if you gently squeeze them with both legs they will know to move forward. To teach them this you need to use both commands at the same time, and then remove one and they will know what to do.

In this example, you should have the person helping you pull gently on their head to give them the move forward command, and at the exact same time do the new technique you are using to give them the forward command

Such as squeezing your legs together gently. Once you do this a few times, you can just squeeze your legs together without the gentle pulling motion on their head and they will know what to do.

What Is Technically a Cow and What Is Not (& Why It’s Important)

There is a lot of different terminology for cows, that also differ from region to region. It’s common for people to call a steer a cow, even though it’s technically not a cow.

A cow according to the dictionary definition is an adult female cattle. But, in common usage, people often say cow for both male and female cattle.

Cattle is the common name for what is scientifically called a Bos Taurus. The species Bos Taurus is in the biological subfamily Bovinae. This is why cattle are often called bovines. “Cow” is also used for other species of animals that aren’t cattle such as:

  • moose
  • yak
  • bison
  • water buffalo

A cow is a female cattle. Cows can sometimes be difficult to tell apart from males because some types don’t have a visible udder. Only certain breeds have a large visible udder, and some don’t have a visible udder until after they have given birth.

The reason this is important is that bulls of certain breeds are more aggressive than cows of the same breed. If you try to train a bull that people call a cow, it may be impossible and you will be wasting your time.

A black and white cow mooing in a grass field.
Each cow has its own personality and temperament

NOTE: It’s important to understand what breed of cow you’re training, to see whether it’s usually possible, and that it is indeed a cow and not a bull. Refer to the section above titled ‘Cow/Cattle Breeds That Will Allow You To Ride Them’ to make sure you’re trying to train the right breed.

Do Cows Like To Be Ridden?

You can tell the way an animal like a cow is feeling by the way it behaves. Like people, they also have a mood that changes, and they can be happy and excited, or in a frustrated or sad mood. Riding a cow is not common, unlike with horses, so here’s whether cows enjoy being ridden...

As a general rule, cows do like to be ridden. However, it takes time to get them accustomed to being ridden. If you try to ride a cow that doesn’t know you it will get scared and can buck and kick you. But, once they are warmed up to it gradually, they can enjoy it.

NOTE: Each cow is unique, and they have a different temperament. For example, some cows are very calm, and friendly, some are shy, and some a very aggressive. 

Typically, aggressive cows aren’t liked by farmers and so they are sold, or given away. An aggressive cow will encourage the other cows to also be aggressive, which is more trouble than it’s worth for farmers. It can also never be ridden. 

Can Bulls Be Ridden?

Bull riding is a sport where people try to stay on a furious bull as long as possible. But, the bulls are specially selected because they are particularly angry, and hate being ridden.

As a general rule, bulls can be ridden. Bulls can be trained to get used to being ridden, however, by default they won’t allow you to ride them. If a bull is hand raised it will be very calm and like being touched. This will make it easier to get used to being ridden.

However, each bull has a unique temperament. Therefore, even if a bull is hand-reared it may never be able to be taught how to be ridden calmly. As mentioned above, overall dairy bull breeds are typically the most aggressive

A man bull riding in an arena of cowboys.
Bulls tend to be more aggressive by nature, and are used for bull riding

Meat bull breeds tend to be calmer. The method for teaching a bull to be ridden is the same as teaching a cow to be ridden. So, use the same step-by-step instructions outlined at the top of this article to teach a bull to be ridden.

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